Commercial ancestry DNA testing kits, such as those available via 23 and Me and similar companies, are more popular than ever, partially due to their low cost and users’ desire to see where their families came from.
After taking the tests, users often share information online with each other, tracking down relatives users may not have known they had; learning vital genetic information about themselves and each other; and in some cases, such as this case reported by The Inquisitr, finding out that their own immediate family makeup is different than what they thought.
However, there are a couple of downsides to the industry that aren’t mentioned in the commercials. For starters, users may not realize that their genetic information, which they willingly pay for the privilege of giving away, effectively becomes the property of the testing service they used. And, that information may be sold to third parties or given to law enforcement. In fact, more than one crime has been solved thanks to commercial ancestry DNA testing.
Happy Hanukkah from 23andMe! Here’s to 8 nights of friends, family and connections. ???? pic.twitter.com/bOEbJAlk32— 23andMe (@23andMe) December 23, 2019
All of this could potentially create problems when it comes to military members using those kits, said Joseph D. Kernan, the undersecretary of defense for intelligence, and James N. Stewart, the assistant secretary of defense for manpower, in an internal memo released to the Pentagon last week and obtained by Yahoo News.
“Exposing sensitive genetic information to outside parties poses personal and operational risks to Service members,” the memo stated.
The memo goes on to say that those services, which have been known to offer discounts to military members, could compromise the security of both the military members themselves, as well as military operations.
“These genetic tests are largely unregulated and could expose personal and genetic information, and potentially create unintended security consequences and increased risk to the joint force and mission,” the memo stated.
The memo suggested that such kits could provide “inaccurate” medical information based on a service member’s genes, which could pose risks.
Erin Murphy, a professor at New York University’s School of Law, suggested that enemies could use readily-available genetic information to track down someone, or their family, involved in a high-level military operation, such as the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, and then exact revenge.
“It’s not hard to imagine a world where people are blithely sharing information online without realizing their third cousin is a Navy SEAL, or an operative of the CIA,” Murphy said.